Trumbo

"Weak"

Trumbo Review


As the poster child for the Hollywood Ten during the Anti-Communist hysteria of the late '40s/early '50s, one of the darkest and most unsavory moments in recent American history, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Kitty Foyle, A Guy Named Joe) was a passionate, cranky, ill-tempered force of nature, the perfect foil for the mealy and mercenary denizens of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Thrown out of work, blacklisted (with scores of others), and jailed (Trumbo was Prisoner #7551), Trumbo burrowed into the Hollywood underground, continuing to write films under fronts and pseudonyms (Roman Holiday) and hatching a scheme to defeat Hollywood at its own game by toiling away as a script machine and working hard and fast with the idea of transforming blacklisted writers into becoming the most economically-desired writers in town simply by under-pricing the whitelisted writers, hoping to cause the blacklist to wither and die of its own weight. But an Oscar for The Brave One under a Trumbo pseudonym brought the whole stinking sham of the blacklist out in the open. Soon after, Trumbo became the first blacklisted screenwriter to have his name restored in the film credits (Spartacus, Exodus). But during Trumbo's exile and before his return to grace, he wrote lots of letters.

In Peter Askin's eponymous paean to Trumbo (based on son Christopher Trumbo's play, which starred Nathan Lane), Trumbo's prickly letters, mined from the 1940s to the 1960s (extracted from the published collection Additional Dialogue), are read by a legion of actors including Lane, Donald Sutherland, Michael Douglas, Josh Lucas, Liam Neeson, Brian Dennehy, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, and Paul Giamatti. Interspersed with the recitations are recollections from Trumbo's family, Christopher and daughter Mitzi, and supporters like Kirk Douglas, along with blurry film clips and extracts of interviews with Trumbo himself.

Trumbo is anything if not sincere and well meaning. Unfortunately, every one in front of and behind the camera in film knows it. You can cut the earnestness in the film with a knife. The actors recite from Trumbo's letters like reading passages from the Bible. Askin even pumps up the actorly profundities by shooting the actors straight on, the reciters gazing fervently into the lens as if in a Cialis commercial. But then Askin, choosing not to hold on to that straight on shot, cuts away to a side view of the recitations, creating the impression that even the camera itself is uninterested and has to look away. Too bad, because it further diffuses an already unimaginative technique, rendering a film that should have been impassioned and full of life and humor into something static and dull.

Trumbo himself was anything but static and dull and his appearances in the film are the only electric moments and infuses this corpse with life. Trumbo is urgent and eloquent and could just as well be speaking of today when he remarks that "freedom of speech becomes a luxury for which few fight at the most" and even agreeing with the U.S. Congress that cited him for contempt, "It was a just verdict because I had contempt for that congress and several others since." And at some moments the prose of his letters vaults through the hallowed genuflections and grabs you by the throat with twisted dagger phrases like "Get ready to become nobody" and "Say hello to my friends and piss on my enemies."

To be sure, there are a few recitations that do not fall to the ground like dead moths. Paul Giamatti reads a hilarious letter mounted by Trumbo against a hapless telephone company employee trying to collect the phone bill from a broke Trumbo. Best of all, Nathan Lane, with perfect comic archness, reads a letter written to his son expounding on the joys of Albert Ellis and masturbation.

It's just a shame that the most effective moment in a film that should have left people thinking about the meaning of freedom in contemporary times ends up being a gloriously written paean to self-abuse.

I hope he washed his hands.



Trumbo

Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Friday 27th June 2008

Box Office USA: $28.1k

Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 45 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Will Battersby, Tory Tunnel, Alan Klingenstein, David Viola

Starring: as Himself, as Herself, Emanuel Azenberg as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.